Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Winter Silence

The blog was quiet and hibernating.

I had the house to myself all winter. Hiro was in Brazil for three and a half months. I went to New Zealand for a trip. I loved it. I kept busy with textile related stuff... I just didn't write about it.

I sat on cold nights and wove the gothic cross alpaca blankets I had warped a year ago while listening to The Brothers Karamazov for the umpteenth time.
There was something wrong with the dent so I bought a new reed and re-sleighed it less densely. It looks great now. My buddy Yumbo came over to build a stone wall behind the pond and tried weaving for the first time.

Whiteboots immediately made the freshly woven blanket his own.

There were a few kilograms of medium dyed madder wool lying around that was not asking to be woven into anything. A few kilograms of madder and a re-mordanting.....

The two working back strap looms were empty and sad upstairs.
I warped them both in a few days and they are so happy to be of use again.

The indigo vats are open for the year! Diana Sanderson from the Silk Weaving Studio in Vancouver was here for a visit and the de-sludging of the sleeping vat.

Tobie and Janie were here for a visit and they managed some gorgeous work in a short time.

We visited Noguchi san for the day.

Cocoons were reeled and silk hankies were made.

There is never enough time. Never. 

I had a few cancellations for ten-day workshops this year. If you are interested. Please get in touch.


Quick visit to Laos

I worked on a few development projects in Laos 15 years ago.
It was all very exotic and exciting spending time in ethnic minority villages in the mountains of northern Laos. The learning curve was in your face.
What development work is. What the world might look like for traditional villagers when roads are built next to their isolated-for-millennia villages and a slightly better lighted and complex world starts to swallow their existence. 
The expat world of do-gooders, opportunists, nut cases and CIA operative do-gooders/opportunists/nut cases….
In short….I loved it. 
I was in the back of a dusty truck bouncing and sliding through the mud through the damaged tropical landscape. Smiling so much my face hurt….an added addition to the adventure was the impossibly handsome, charismatic French surgeon beaming and laughing while we tried to hang on and to not get thrown overboard by the teenage driver.
We were out of the truck and then wading across a muddy slippery stream to arrive in a dusty village of thatched huts as the sun set.
Inside a smokey hut our small group with the help of a translator tried explaining the protocols of a fair trade project.
The absurdity …… 
When asked how she would spend the wave of money that would flood into the village as our handicraft project flourished and lifted them out of poverty with schools and flush toilets….. and electricity ….. a village wise woman enthusiastically rattled on…pakpukpidywak..ajinomoto..snuckslackjatanalke..
I stopped the translator because I had distinctly heard the word “Ajinomoto”. The Japanese brand name for monosodium glutamate.
In the oil lamp lit, smoke circling in blackened rafters and molding palm frond thatched hut on stilts…
Sure enough…that is what she was hoping to purchase with the future village wealth.
I had the translator tell her, “It’s bad for you.”
He translated her tart words back to me, “I know but it tastes sooooo good.”
So much for sewer systems and graduate school scholarships.
I later snooped around the village and saw an impossibly horrible opium smoking dead-eyed father with a tangle of thin-legged hungry kids sleeping lengthwise across the battered broken floor slats of their home so they wouldn't fall through to the ground below. A pathetic drug deal instead of a monosodium glutamate deal materialized on a foggy screen in my sensory overloaded head.
I had the dumbest resume one earth…well so dumb I would have been humiliated to have written it down at the time.
I’d spent the last ten years of my life in a small village in the mountains of Japan learning about primitive silk farming and natural dyes and weaving traditional Japanese textiles. Along the way I had learn to repair silk farming, silk reeling and weaving tools. A few contemporary skills like breeding silk moths and using contemporary spinning and reeling and throwing machines.
I had missed the 90s completely. 
I'd been doing this simply out of anthropological curiosity and a habit I’d picked up as a kid to take things apart and be interested in long processes that ended up in some sort of art work….think 60’s Ford Mustangs and eagle feather Indian headdresses. 
Heading back in the back of the truck Dr Philippe had somehow sussed out the carefully shabbied, shaggy-pony-tailed 40-year-old-me … the skills and openness to adventure and his offer of work in Laos had my head spinning. 
A few years later the recession of 2008 put an end to the development games.
I’d seen Philippe a few times over the years since then. I was in Bangkok a while back and flew up to spend a few days with him and his family in Laos. 
Vientiane was much as I remembered it. 
We drove by the spot where we had a motorcycle accident many years ago. Cracked bones in my ribs, right foot and left hand. Still bothers me in bad weather. 
A dog had run out in the street in front of us.
Hours later as Philippe was finishing up a plaster cast for my arm and the beer painkillers were really working I asked him with genuine concern, “What happened to the dog?” His eyes twinkled and he mischievously kissed his fingertips and said, “Bon appetite.”
Philippe and Babette still keep the silk business going. He scooters back and forth to the hospital to operate a few times a week. Farming super foods has his attention now. Endless curiosity of life around him, a bear hug and a big smile as he moves through his compassionate, gregarious and humor-filled life.
Pictures now and then.